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Civic Power
Rebuilding American Democracy in an Era of Crisis

$36.99 (P)

  • Date Published: September 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108431842

$ 36.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • What will it take to restore American democracy and rescue it from this moment of crisis? Civic Power argues that the current threat to US democracy is rooted not just in the outcome of the 2016 election, but in deeper, systemic forms of inequality that concentrate economic and political power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. Drawing on historical and social science research and case studies of contemporary democratic innovations across the country, Civic Power calls for a broader approach to democracy reform focused on meaningfully redistributing power to citizens. It advocates for both reviving grassroots civil society and novel approaches to governance, policymaking, civic technology, and institutional design - aimed at dismantling structural disparities to build a more inclusive, empowered, bottom-up democracy, where communities and people have greater voice, power, and agency.

    • Bridges the divide between diagnosing problems to theorizing actual solutions
    • Synthesizes historical and social scientific analyses to explain the current crisis of American democracy in larger historical and systematic terms
    • Develops concrete suggestions on how practitioners can help build up grassroots organizations to improve American democracy, including with civic technology
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'With clarity and panache, this book bridges insights from both academic scholarship and communities of practice. In doing so, it makes a fresh, must-read argument that puts questions of power back into the center of conversations about how we realize the democratic promise in America.' Hahrie Han, SNF Agora Institute, The Johns Hopkins University

    'Civic Power challenges us to examine our core assumptions about the attributes of a healthy democracy. An unsparing analysis of how inequality and exclusion warp our politics is coupled with a bracing and uplifting set of positive prescriptions for change. Highly recommended!' Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America

    'Civic Power is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the crisis of American democracy and what to do about it. While others critique norms, institutional weakness, media, and racism, Rahman and Russon-Gilman focus on power: where it comes from and whom it serves. The 'exclusionary populism' that fueled President Trump’s ascendancy is only the flip side of the disastrous long term atrophy of civic power in America. Civic Power stands out for its relentlessly constructive contributions. From their vast knowledge of the small-'d' democratic landscape across America, they offer numerous inspirational examples of how civic power is built.' Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government, Harvard University

    'But the hole we are in wasn’t dug overnight, and digging out of it will also take time. If people listen to Hersh as well as Rahman and Gilman, maybe at least they will stop digging the hole deeper.' Micah L. Sifry, The American Prospect

    ‘The book provides multiple examples of cities and organizations, in the US and beyond, that have taken on the task of creating meaningful connections among disparate groups, strengthening common bonds beyond one-time political activities toward transformational and sustained political power.’ D. C. Downey, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108431842
    • length: 290 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Democracy in crisis
    Part I. Civic Power through Organizing:
    2. Democracy and inequality as a function of the balance of power
    3. Organizing for power
    Part II. Civic Power through Governance:
    4. From governance to power – rethinking democracy reform
    5. Bureaucratizing participation
    6. Power-oriented policy design
    7. Conclusion – democracy's future

  • Authors

    K.Sabeel Rahman, Brooklyn Law School
    K. Sabeel Rahman is the President of Demos, a think-and-do tank committed to building a more inclusive and equitable democracy and economy. He is also an Associate Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, where he teaches constitutional law and administrative law. Rahman is a leading scholar of democracy, law, and inequality, and is the author of Democracy against Domination (2016), which won the American Political Science Association's Dahl Award.

    Hollie Russon Gilman, Columbia University, New York
    Hollie Russon Gilman is a Lecturer at Columbia University and holds research fellowships at New America and Georgetown's Beeck Center. Her work focuses on the intersection of civic engagement, technology, and governance. She is the author of Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America (2016). She served in the Obama Administration in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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